Pus or Pimple on Gums

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When you understand HOW and WHY things happen, your actions for treatment and prevention are vastly improved.

If you just want to know WHAT ACTIONS TO TAKE, scroll down.

If you’re in a real hurry, click the Print This Page button and take this information with you.

Emergencies - Potential causes

Pus or a pimple on the gums can happen at any age. There is good and bad news with this. These may be caused by infections from a tooth, the gums, bone, implant, or foreign body. They are MOST COMMONLY caused by an abscess (click here for emergency info about an abscess).

However, assume nothing as underlying causes may include:

  • An abscess (most common)
  • A cyst (a fluid-filled sac that forms slowly)
  • A cracked tooth
  • Cellulitis (infection of the inner layer of skin)
  • Mucocele (a specific type of cyst where the fluid retained is mucous)
  • Cold sores (caused by Herpes Simplex Virus or HSV)
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • A sequestrum (a piece of bone separated from the main body of bone, usually after surgery)
  • Cancer

They can occur before or after a root canal or gum disease therapy, after a tooth is pulled (an extraction), after implant surgery, or even after a filling is done. They can also occur for apparently no reason at all.

The bad news is that these may be an abscess (which forms rapidly and doctors call this “acute”) or they may be a cyst or other disease finally making its way to the surface (doctors call these slow-moving diseases “chronic” as they could have formed over several weeks or months and fluid buildup is finally making it’s way to the surface).

Emergencies - Symptoms

The good news is that the pressure from the underlying disease is coming to a head (doctors call this “pointing”) and so the pressure may relieve itself. Therefore, these types of abscesses (or cysts or whatever) tend not to cause such severe pain as an enclosed abscess with no pressure relief.

Your child may have any of these signs and symptoms:

  • A pimple
  • Sour taste
  • Horrible breath
  • Pus from an unknown source
  • Blood mixed with the pus
  • Other white or red patches in the mouth
  • Other areas of generalized swelling
  • Generalized pain is less common (sometimes there’s no pain at all)
  • Pain to touch the specific area of pimple

Emergencies - Relieve pain

If there is pain, you can try these things while waiting to get professional treatment.
  • Over the counter anti-inflammatory pain medicines, but NOT ASPIRIN. Typically acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be used. These are to be swallowed only.
  • Ice packs on the face if swelling is external. Frozen vegetables like peas or corn make a good pliable ice pack. Wrap in a small thin towel (even a paper towel) before applying directly to skin in order to prevent freezer burn to the skin.
  • Ice water to sip if swelling is inside the mouth. Only do this if it relieves abscess pain and does not cause teeth to be sensitive.
  • Salt water rinse (half teaspoon salt dissolved in one cup warm water). You may want to use no more than body-temperature water to avoid adding heat to the abscess which can increase pain. If there is pus in the mouth, this can help clean the mouth and get rid of the horrible taste too.
  • Do not put over the counter anti-inflammatory pain medicines directly on teeth or gums. Some have acids in them that can burn the tissues. These are meant to be swallowed only.
  • Do not cut into the abscess to relieve the pressure yourself. Beneath the skin or lining inside the mouth are arteries, veins, and nerves. Accidental cutting (if you don’t know where they are) can cause life-threatening bleeding or permanent nerve damage.
  • Do not use hot packs as these will likely increase the pain and throbbing.

Emergencies - What to do

DO NOT PANIC. Your child’s state of mind depends on you being a cool, calm, and collected parent.

  • Contact your child’s dentist right away. She or he may help you determine if you should bring your child in right away. With a draining pimple it is less of an emergency than with generalized abscess swelling. They may prescribe antibiotics.
  • Follow the suggestions to Relieve Pain (above) until you can get to a dental professional.
  • If generalized swelling is severe, an abscess can become life-threatening. This is one situation that if you can’t contact a dentist fairly quickly, you may want to consider taking your child to an Urgent Care Center or Emergency Room. But remember, keep calm about it for the sake of your child.

Back to the List of Emergencies Page

NOTE: Any recommendations given can only be construed as general information. It is impossible for me to know your specific circumstances. I am not your family’s personal dentist. This material should NOT be used to diagnose the presence or absence of any particular ailment. This information is not intended to be a substitute for the services of a locally qualified dental health care professional. Any application of the material found on this website is at the reader’s discretion and is her or his sole responsibility. If there is any question, contact your dentist or other qualified dental health care professional.
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